NYU President John Sexton speaks at Term Limit Hearings in 'Up is Down' Testimony

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New York University has dramatically expanded its real estate tentacles and University purple flags throughout New York City over the last seven years under Mayor Bloomberg. Many believe that the University, which holds most (if not all) of the real estate surrounding Washington Square Park, pulled strings behind-the-scenes with the Bloomberg Administration to impose the dramatic redesign of this park over the wishes of the community.

So, it should come as no surprise where NYU President John Sexton would fall on term limits, and the extension of Mayor Bloomberg’s reign.

More Bloomberg. More NYU.

When Mr. Sexton appeared before the New York City Council during the public hearing the same day I did, I was surprised to see him there. And yet, would I have expected a University president to give such an uninspiring and unthoughtful testimony as to why term limits should be extended, thereby overturning a public vote via legislation? No.

The NYU President appeared a few panels following mine on Friday, October 17th, at City Hall in the City Council Chambers. (There were typically panels grouped together of 4-7 people.) During the two hearings, most of the well known politicians and corporate CEOs appeared early on, given preference in the order of the day. But there he was later in the afternoon.

I had a hard time following Sexton’s testimony. It was very up is down. He never spoke about how NYU, which is the #2 or #3 real estate holder in the city, has benefited from Mayor Bloomberg’s reign. However, it was underlying in his testimony which otherwise offered little logic or reason.

Mr. Sexton urged the NY City Council body to vote in favor of Bloomberg’s bill to give himself and City Council members a third term citing it as an “act of bravery.” He stated that each City Council member needed to say to his or herself:”Because this is right, I am doing this.”

A City Council Member asked Mr. Sexton about “cynicism” from the public if the City Council overturned the will of the people — who voted in two public referendums to implement two term limits on our elected officials. Sexton replied that he IS “concerned about the growth of cynicism and that we are becoming a society of distrust.” At the same time, he “opposes term limits” and feels additional time “gives leaders time to solve complex problems.” He said something about people needing “stability in their lives.” (Which caused me to have some cynicism thinking that the NYU Prez knows that stability in the University’s real estate interests will come from Mr. Bloomberg.)

During my testimony prior to his, I mentioned the costly and unnecessary redesign of Washington Square Park and the issue of “privitization and reduction of our public spaces under the Bloomberg Administration.” (If I had realized Mr. Sexton was there, I would have added NYU in somewhere.)

Brooklyn City Council Member Bill de Blasio, when speaking during the term limits vote a few days later, said something that could have applied to Mr. Sexton. Council Member de Blasio said, “George Orwell would have loved arguments used by the Speaker and the Mayor… [They say] by taking away people’s right to vote, we are giving them more choice.”

John Sexton’s argument to the City Council was that by taking away people’s right to vote, the New York City Council is displaying “bravery.” By giving themselves a third term against the expressed will of the people, by caving to the wishes of a Billionaire Mayor who purposefully waited too long to put the issue to the public, by not standing up to this Mayor, the Council Members are displaying “bravery.”

I can only imagine what advice he gives graduating NYU Seniors.

3 thoughts on “NYU President John Sexton speaks at Term Limit Hearings in 'Up is Down' Testimony

  1. Thank you for providing us with even more information about the reasons behind the positions of those who testified at the City Council hearings. I was present at the hearings and witnessed the stacked audience and the extended testimonies of those in support of the Mayor while those opposing the Mayor’s bill were not only subject to the dismissive attitude of the Chair, Simcha Felder but were strictly held to the two minute limit. It was the most eye opening experience of total disregard for the public’s opinion that I have ever had. Bloomberg is on a power trip and has no interest in the public’s response. My fear is, with no campaign financing limits, Bloomberg’s war chest will convince the public that he sincerely wants to serve and it will all but silence the opposition.

    Keep the articles coming.

  2. Hi Joyce,

    Thanks for your comment. I appreciate it.

    I too fear that money will obscure everything (“Bloomberg’s war chest,” as you say) but people are *really* angry about this – it’s interesting what pushes buttons, with so many things that are troubling and bad – and I believe it will be a prominent issue during the campaign.

    The media has been problematic as well. Although reporting has been good, the fact that the editorial boards of the major dailies all fell in line is just crazy.

    The elected officials should have been held to a time limit. It was a “public hearing” but it was given over to corporate CEOs and former and present elected officials.

    It’s great that you went. SO many people took their time to voice their opinions. Many didn’t get to testify unfortunately. The ones who did… on that level, it was really encouraging and I was touched by much of the testimony.

    And then you have people like John Sexton … you’d hope that a university president as opposed to Richard Parsons, Chair of Time Warner, would put forth a principled argument. But no…

    Let’s see what happens next. !

    best,
    Cathryn
    WSP Blog

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